Welcome to another week of the Diary, as the lockdown continues and we all try to stay safe and await what happens next. It’s been a quiet old week again in the game, but as the Premier League consider a return to playing football behind closed doors in June and muting the possibility of perhaps even having to consider continuing with the same set up for the whole of next season. There is little doubt at present that the future of rugby league hangs in the balance.
It was a little sad for me to hear that the players union werethis week flexing their muscles and issuing ‘strongly worded letters’ about the players getting a cut of the £16m loan from the government, before it had even been received. I say that simply because at times like these we all have to pull togetherand work as one for the common good. Players must have enough money to survive, pay their commitments and look after their families, that point isn’t in doubt and the owners know that. It was intimated this week from our own players that Adam has even told them that once they are back playing, their wages will be restored.
Whatever they are, I can’t honestly see the owners stuffing their pockets with the money at the expense of keeping the game going or the players solvent, can you? There is no point in anyone getting heavy handed in all this and what is done with the loan has to be done equitably, taking the clubs, the fans and indeed the players along with the process.
On the other side of the coin this week our Club sent out a letter of thanks to all their sponsors and commercial partnersfor the ‘phenomenal’ help and offers of assistance they have received from these organisations, all of whom are under pressure themselves. The response and offers from this sector of our club has been amazing and is just great to see. In the meantime, whilst us fans await to see how we can all help, theGovernment money has to be used to simply keep the clubs going, so that the game stays afloat.
The players have effectively been furloughed and like millions of others in the country, everyone in organisations have sadly to take a cut in their standard of living. What’s more our lot have done that and taken their ‘medicine’ in a good spirit. Like all other workers too, all employers and theiremployees will only find out what happens next, once that furloughing has ceased to be in place and the workplaces are starting to open up again.
Until then, Clubs have to effectively be mothballed and go into hibernation at the lowest possible level of existence, to hopefully re-emerge in some form, when things get better. So,let’s hope that we see some common sense in it all, everyone pulls together and we get back to playing, so that we have a sport left at the end of this tragic debacle.
For now though, in here, it’s back to my journey through life as a fanatical FC supporter, finding his way in the world, as this week I recount the emergence of Sunday rugby, the great Mick Ronson, ‘We all Hate Leeds’, a victory at last in the Yorkshire Cup Final, tragedy at home, Terry Kirchin, the magical qualities of human urine and the rise and fall of the Clockwork Chicken.
Sunday….. Bloody Sunday!!
Sunday 20th September 1968: Hull 28 v Huddersfield 14
The 1968/69 Rugby League season contained a very special event in the history of my great rugby team when, along with several other ‘hard up’ clubs, they decided to give Sunday rugby a try for the first time. The first game we ever played on the Sabbath was at home to Huddersfield on 20th October 1968. The game was certainly a success as far as the Hull club was concerned and reflecting on the actions on the field the headlines of the Hull Daily Mail next day described it perfectly when they stated ‘Sullivan Try Highlight of First Sunday Game’.
A big crowd of 8,600, (who paid £2059), stood clasping their match day programmes, (which they had purchased at an inflated rate to compensate for the fact that it was illegal to sell tickets for any sporting event on a Sunday so admission was by programme), and watched a bit of history being made at a sunny Boulevard. On the car park before the game we were greeted by several people from the ‘Lords Day Observance Society’ who stood sentinel like holding up banners that announced, ‘Keep the Lords Day Sacred’ and ‘ Repent Ye the Kingdom of Heaven is nigh’. We just queued round them, and paid little heed as we made our way to the turnstiles. It was quite ‘tight’ standing on the ThreepennyStand that day, with the most memorable aspect of that tradition breaking afternoon the first try, after just five minutes by Clive Sullivan, which the local paper referred to in that headline.
The try unfolded like this. A move on half way saw Gemmell, Hancock and Davidson inter pass for the ball to go out to Clive who was well covered by three Huddersfielddefenders. He swept past two of them and then hared down the touchline hugging the whitewash for about 40 yards withwhat was left of the visitor’s defense trailing in his wake to touch down in the corner to great celebrations all around the ground. Next up it was Dick Gemmell’s turn to go on a run. He picked up a loose ball about 30 yards out and ran for the line. He checked back inside a couple of times but by the time he got to the white wash he was met by a wall of Huddersfielddefenders, that had tracked back to cover, but Dick just ploughed into them and stretching an arm out of the ruck to place the ball over the line for our second try.
Huddersfield scored next with a try for ex London Saracens RU player, John Kersey-Brown. He followed a kick through from Gordon Wallace, to harass Arthur Keegan into a rare mistake. As our full back dropped the ball, Kersey Brown kicked ahead and touched down in the corner just before the ball trickled over the dead ball line. It was only a small setback for Hull though and before half time we were on the score board again, with a try that was simplicity itself. Shaun O’Brien took Chris Davidson’s short ball on the charge and shot through under the posts to reinstate our lead. O’Brien had a great game and was awarded the Man of The Match accolade, although he was closely followed by Joe Brown who had recently switched from centre to loose forward with great effect.
The second half was played in bright sunshine as the Hull team stretched their lead this time with a try by the ‘ubiquitous’ Howard Firth who somehow got in at the corner after a sweeping move involving Keegan, Charlesworth and Chris Davidson. Keresey-Brown forced Firth out of play but the touch judge decided that our winger had got the ball down and the score stood. Next as we started to take control, Keegan and Charlesworth put Davidson away. He passed to Sullivan who drew three men towards him before turning the ball back inside to the trailing Davidson who scoreduntouched by any Huddersfield player. Jim Macklin who was then playing the best rugby of his career at Hull, took umbrage at a loose arm and repeated his party piece from the previous Wigan game by laying a Huddersfield hooker out cold. However, the referee either decided to ignore the offence, or missed it completely and just waived play on.
Finally a sweeping move involving Macklin and Edson put Gemmell into a gap, he drew the defence and passed to Firth who once again managed to beat the Rugby Union convert to the corner but only just, and he received a clout on the head after he had scored that saw him have to leave the field with blood streaming down his face.
When the game was won, in the last-minute Kelsey-Brown finally got in as he caught our defense flat footed and probably already thinking about a celebratory drink, and sothe visitor’s winger swept down field and scored next to the posts. We won the game 28-14 to record our biggest victory of the season so far.
The fan’s loved the idea of playing on a Sunday and no doubt some City supporters who usually watched their games down the road at Boothferry Park came along for a look too! So, all in all our first sortie into Sunday rugby was a great success, and despite his mistake Arthur Keegan, who was once again crowned the fans Player of the Year that season, got the man of the match award.
Transfer talk; it’s what kept us going.
That season we signed several in an effort to try and continue rebuilding the team. As the year progressed Johnny Whiteley brought in Len Casey, Don Robson and Keith Boxall as back then there were no embargoes on signings, quotas, salary caps or indeed rules on poaching staff. Players changed clubs and were signed up throughout the year unlike more recent times when all transfer and contract business is done well before the season starts and mid-season changes are still quite a rare occurrence.
Back in the sixties although classed as the ‘Professional’ game, it was to all intense and purpose a “semi-professional” set up and there was always a vast amount of movement of players between clubs during the season. Players were even “tapped up” after games or visited at home mid week, by grey men in long coats with turned up collars, for clandestine meetings, to offer an extra few bob to move clubs. This of course led to a healthy level of interest in the game here in Hull, not only on the field at a weekend, but also between games, because local speculation was always rife about who we, or Rovers, were about to sign.
In those days you always got a morning paper to read in your break at work and we all used to comb it for news of your club and possible signings. Most of the national morning newspapers, particularly those printed in Manchester, contained speculation about these imminent moves and players often used to contact the media themselves to generating their own rumours to help improve their contracts.
There is nothing like an odd rumour or two to get clubs a bit twitchy about losing their best players! In fact, the Sunday tabloids such as The Mirror, The People and The News of the World had gossip columns by Messrs. Huxley and Co. about Rugby League every Sunday. We used to pour over them every week, but more importantly this exposure meant that the uninitiated fan or the casual observer could get interested in what was going on in the world of Rugby League. Just try and find any coverage at all in these Sunday papers in modern times and you’ll see that rugby coverage is usually confined to three pages of ‘Yawnion’, followed, if you are lucky, by a single match report from a Saturday game on the previous evening.
A guitar hero is born and I was there ….well sort of!
When, I left Lenny and Sutton Golf Course behind I had experienced three of the most enjoyable months of my gardening apprenticeship thus far. In fact, when my movement letter from the Council offices in Ferensway dropped on the mat at 10 Potterill Lane, it was a big disappointment,indicating as it did that next I would have to peddle my bicycle a bit further along Saltshouse Road onto BiltonGrange Estate.
My next place of work was to be Alderman Kneeshaw Playing Fields or AKPF as it was known to all on the Parks department. The park was a windswept place with a cinder running track, which was the home of East Hull Harriers and this part of my apprenticeship was aimed at developing my skills in maintaining athletics facilities. The boss Ronnie was waiting outside the mess room to meet me on my arrival that first Monday morning and immediately appeared to me to be a stern individual. He was clearly unfit (something that was, I found out quickly, down to his inactivity during working hours) and the way that his brown smock coat only fitted where it touched meant that he could best be described as portly. He was never seen without that coat, which I quickly found out was referred to by the rest of the staff as his ‘Bulling Smock’.
All this paled into insignificance though for a young apprentice because all I really noticed on our first encounter was the fact that Ronnie had really strange eyes. One was fixed straight at you whilst the other was scanning the skies! This condition which was referred to as being ‘Wall eyed’, was, like club foot, cleft pallet and stuttering, a deal more common back then but still took you back a bit when you encountered it full on! I was now getting used to meeting new people and I quickly settled into the routine at what was a relatively newly developed park.
The work was interesting, if not a bit boring at times, although Ronnie didn’t hold back on using the experience I had gained on the bowling green’s of East Park when HarryClappison, the regular green keeper, won the football pools and just walked off the job one Wednesday afternoon! For a couple of weeks thereafter I was in charge of the bowling greens and at the mercy of the Veteran’s bowling club, who I found very quickly were difficult, if not impossible to please. The game of rink bowling or ‘old man’s rugby’ as it was affectionately known to many who didn’t play, was taken very seriously indeed and often arguments would break out on the greens as one bowler or another was accused of measuring the distance from the bowls to the jack utilising ‘an elastic handkerchief’.
The best memory from that period of my life though concerns the other gang of parks department workers that shared the messing facilities with the permanent staff at AKPF.
They were a group of gardeners and labourers who looked after all the verges, playgrounds and gardens surrounding the ‘Pensioners Bungalows’ and the schools in and around BiltonGrange Estate. All of them were real comedians and thoroughly good blokes, if not a bit ‘laddish’ in their behaviour. They didn’t work directly for Ronnie and so they used to give him some real stick, if fact I guess they were a real wild bunch at times and would often play the card game‘brag’ for big stakes during the lunch hour. Amongst them was a tall, good looking guy with flowing blonde hair who wore the tightest jeans I’d ever seen. He was a laconic character who always had a smile on his face. This guy was the late great Mick Ronson the soon to be world-renowned guitarist who formed the Spiders from Mars with David Bowie. He then went on to play with Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople and as well as enjoying a solo career, to produce records for hundreds of artistes before he tragically died of Liver Cancer on 29th April 1993, when he was just 46 years old.
Back then (and probably in fairness to the day he died) he was just an ordinary guy with ambitions that at times did not seem to match his obvious talents. He was a smashing bloke and a real friendly character as well as being a brilliant musician. Mick and I got on from day one. He lived on BiltonGrange, with his Mum Minnie, his Dad George, sister Maggie and much younger brother Dave. From the day I met him I made it my business to take every opportunity I could to go and see him and his band the Rats wherever they played. Looking back, I am so glad that I did. I was completely taken with Mick indeed I think I was a little over whelmed by him and spent hours talking to him and listening to the stories he told about his adventures out on the road with the band. He was so easy going and of such a generous nature I think to this day he was one of the nicest people I had ever met.
The amazing flying guitarist!
One of his favourite stories was usually precluded by him showing a small scar on his stomach which he gained one night when he was playing in the local band the Cresta’s, before he joined the Rats.
The band were, (he related to a packed mess room),performing a Beatles number and Mick was singing harmony’s when he reached out to hold the mike whilst keeping one hand on the strings of his guitar. Who Knows? Perhaps the equipment was faulty or wasn’t earthed properly but there was a mighty explosion and Mick flew off the stage and ended up across a table out on the floor amongst the surprised dancers. One of the other band members had to prize the guitar off his body where it had burnt itself onto his stomach. Well that’s what Mick said anyway!!! He was rushed to hospital as he was out cold and was told by the doctor in charge that he was, “A very lucky young man”. Mick was almost paranoid about checking his equipment after that.
He also had lots to say about a period in 1966 when he had taken his guitar and set off to earn fame and fortune in London playing in two bands ’The Voice’ and ’The Wanted’and he told tales of freezing cold bed sits, begging for food and actually playing at the Marquee club. It was just great to be around such a lovely bloke, who just radiated stories about a world we had only read about in the papers.
Whenever he went out onto Bilton Grange with the old four wheeled cart full of gardening tools, all the girls, young and old would shout, ’Hiya Mick’ whilst the lads would usually shout ’Ronno’ at the top of their voices and waive to him. Every time a Co-op mobile shop van passed there would be a great laugh amongst the lads too, because it was in one such mobile shop that Mick first worked after he left school. He was without doubt a real local hero. Mick was always the rock star even back then and could been seen constantly strokinghis long platinum locks whilst he was ragged incessantly about always had a supply of combs in his inside pocket.
Following the Rats.
The Rats certainly were a great band with Mick Bolder on Bass, Woody Woodmansey on drums, (both of whom went onto play with Mick in the Spiders from Mars) and Benny Marshall on vocals. Their repertoire was bluesy and featured a lot of Mick’s favourite music of the times by Jeff Beck and the Cream. Some of the songs I remember seeing them perform include Beck’s, ‘You Shook me’, Cream’s, ’I’m so Glad’ and Hendix’s ’Hey Joe’. Whilst at times they would throw the odd bit of more mainstream stuff in, like, when it was released, the Beatles ‘Paperback Writer’. Mick‘worshipped’ Jimmy Hendrix though and I remember his favourite album of the time was, ‘Electric Ladyland‘, which he always laughingly referred to as ‘The Electric Landlady’. He had a strange taste in films too and was severely raggedwhen the lads found out that he had been to see the musical ‘Mary Poppins’… twice!
There was a strong music scene in the City then and as well as the Rats (or the Treacle as they were known for a short while) there was a great 5 piece who specialised in Tamla Motown music called the ‘Variations’, and a couple of good bands that used to come over from the Scunthorpe area called ‘The Peyton Cheques’ and ‘Gospel Garden’. I used to travel quite a bit on a weekend to see these bands and the Rats, and despite not owning my own car I managed to get there somehow, either by a lift, the train or the bus. I occasionallytravelled a bit further afield, travelling to venues such as Brough Village Hall, Beverley Regal, Hornsea Floral Hall, Withernsea Pavilion and South Hunsley High School.
Although it goes against popular perceptions with regard to Mick’s unflagging ambition to be a big star, my chats with him left me with the memory of someone who was, at that time, a bit disillusioned with the professional music industry and really happy playing with his pals in the Rats on the local scene. I had moved on to Pearson Park and lost contact with Mick by the time Woody Woodmansey sought him out as he marked out playing fields on Greatfield Estate and persuaded him to leave his marking machine and go and join him, MickBolder and David Bowie in the Spiders from Mars, The rest,as they say, is history.
Mick was as I said, tragically taken from us in 1993 but, despite everything that came after in his illustrious life, I will never forget my brief encounter, at Alderman Kneeshaw Playing Fields, with a real ‘guitar hero’ and a really top guy. In fact later in this story he crossed my path on two other occasions but more of that later.
In out of the Cold.
Sunday 23rd March 1969: Hull 11 Leeds 11
So, after that short excursion into the world of popular music it was back to the 68/69 season at the Boulevard which turned out to be one of mixed fortunes with a run of 9 games undefeated in August and September. In the New Year though the snow and frost descended on the Boulevard and we only played one game between 27th January and 23rd March when we ‘Came out of the Cold’, as Mike Ackroyd of the Hull Daily Mail put it, with a massive game against Leeds the old enemy from the West Riding. This time it was the League game, against a team that I already realised always magically brought the best out of the my team.
It was a Sunday match and with City doing so well down the road, (although the official switch by the Rugby League to playing all games on a Sunday was still some five years away), this change of day for the big games was the only way our Board of Directors could attempt to entice the ‘floating’ sports fans of the City back to the Boulevard. At that time, as I said earlier, it was still illegal to charge for games under the Sunday Observance Act. This piece of outmoded legislation dated back to 1780 and prohibited public entertainments in England and Wales on a Sunday, for which an admission charge is paid, although apparently you were alright if you played in Scotland. So, as I said previously, you paid your money as usual and to get around the law the programme that was usually four pence ‘suddenly’ cost you ‘half a crown’ and of course your ‘admission’ was then free.
The whole league programme had been decimated by the freezing cold weather, but Leeds, because of that underground ‘electric blanket’ at Headingley, had kept their home games going and where, when they arrived at the Boulevard, sat at the top of the League and certainly ‘match hardened’. Of course, we always played well against them but on this occasion the Boulevard was heavy and quite devoid of grass in the centre third and you had to fear for our lighter pack against the big mobile forwards of the West Yorkshire club. I was still watching much of my rugby from the Gordon Street end of the Best Stand and it was pretty busy in there that Sunday when, starved of the game they loved, 7,400 fans turned up to buy a programme. There was a strong rumour after the game which inferred that so many people attended, the club ran out of programmes and in desperation sold beer mats as a means of admission. However, I have to say I never met anyone who actually owned up to buying one of those costly coasters, but it’s a good story. It was a big day too for local hooker Alan McGlone who returned to the team for his first game for over a year.
It was a dank misty afternoon when the teams ran out dead on 3-00pm, and with the floodlights already on everyone stood about waiting for the three officials. For some unknown reason it was a full two minutes before the referee Mr Manley appeared with his touch judges, but at last they ran out and we were ready to start.
The game was destined to be one packed with spectacular rugby and great attack and defence from both sides. Leeds with that famous half back combination of Seabourne and Shoebottom took the early exchanges, although a couple of great tackles by first Dick Gemmell and then Howard Firth stopped Sid Hynes twice when he looked like crossing the line. However, after some robust tackling the first touchdown came on the 15-minute mark and it went to the Airlie Birds. Alan McGlone was a good solid local player who had clearly decided that as he had got his place back, he was keeping it. Finding himself with the ball in midfield he produced one of those great trade mark side steps where his floppy sandy hair went one way and he went the other, to open up a massive gap in the Leeds defensive line. He shot into the opposition’s 25-yard area before turning the ball inside for Joe Brown to crash in under the sticks. John Maloney stepped up to stroke over the conversion and added to it with a penalty after 27 minutes, and we were 7-0 up and looking pretty good.
Leeds though was a classy outfit and it was taking all our guile and tenacity to keep them out. After that penalty Arthur Keegan tackled both Cowan and Bill Ramsey inches short of the line and it looked like we would hang on to our lead until half time when we lost concentration momentarily and the mercurial Bev Risman shot through a gap near half way. Again Keegan tackled him but the big, mobile Leeds forwards carried on the move and second rowers Ayres and Ramsey presented hooker Tony Crosbie with an easy try which Risman converted.
We were all preparing for half time, but just on the whistle we missed a great chance to stretch our lead. Chris Davidson who was having a great game keeping Seabourne quiet with his terrier like tackling hit the diminutive half back head on and as he dropped the ball, Chris fell on it to regain possession near the Leeds 25 yard line. Hancock handed onto Eric Broom who carved out a great opening before sending Jim Neale trundling towards the line. He could probably have scored himself but he turned the easiest of passes inside to the unmarked Edson who dropped the ball in front of him. The whistle went and although we only led by the slenderest of leads, we all agreed that the quality of the rugby after such a long lay-off was great to watch more than we could have really expected.
The second half started late again, this time we were all ‘in fits of laughter’, as the referee came out with his two officials but both teams held back and to chants of ‘Why are we waiting’, from the Threepennies, they made the officials stamp their feet for two minutes before emerging from the tunnel. Coach Johnny Whiteley’s half time talk must have been on the subject of ‘What you have you keep’ because the Hull team obviously had decided to ditch some of the flamboyance of the first half and concentrate on defence, and counter attack. Leeds on the other hand stepped it up a notch, and threw the ball around like those Harlem Globe Trotters who had graced the Stadium all those years ago.
For the first ten minutes we held Leeds at bay but lacked field position and found ourselves constantly pinned back in our own 25 by the probing runs of the big Leeds pack. When we finally got out of our territory on the end of a great run by Edson, we were awarded a penalty for off side and despite a following wind an audacious 40-yard attempt from just in front of the Threepennies saw Maloney’s kick hit the left handpost and bounce dead.
We scrapped our way back up field again and this time Davidson tried a massive 48-yard drop goal which hit the right post and bounced back in play and into the arms of a startled but relieved Bev Risman. In the stands the opinion was that we were not having too much luck at this point. Then Joe Brown picked up a loose Cowan pass and wrong footing the attacking Loiners set off down the pitch. Risman came across to attempt a ‘ball and all’ tackle and in doing so smacked our loose forward across the face. Maloney made no mistake with the penalty and stretched our lead to 9-5.
Only three minutes later Leeds struck again. This time it was their stand out forward Mick Clarke who got the ball wide out and headed towards the corner. As the Hull cover hesitated expecting him to pass to winger Smith he dummied, then kept going and as our cover realised too late to do anything, he was over in the corner. Risman narrowly missed the goal but our lead was reduced to just one point and it was ‘panic stations’ both on and off the field. As we all looked on nervously, Leeds threw the ball about and Hynes went close before Risman shot through to the line only to drop the ball as he crossed the whitewash.
We were certainly hanging on, but once again it was man of the match Chris Davidson who came to the rescue, as he dummied out of the line from a scrum, breezed past Shoebottom and made about 40 precious yards down field before Cowan caught him from behind. From the play the ball McGlone brilliantly delayed his pass and then switched play to the open side and almost as soon as he had received the ball, Joe Brown dropped an amazing goal on the run. He ran forward stepped round a Leeds tackler stopped dead in his tracks, looked up and dropped a 30 yarder from slightly to the left of the posts. With just 10 minutes to go and a three-point lead we scented victory and our tackling really stiffened up, causing the Leeds forwards get a little upset and concede penalties when they were in good positions.
Then after Keegan had fielded a deep kick from Risman on our line, Harrison passed onto Maloney who would have been better driving in and ‘dying’ with the ball in the tackle. However, in the heat of the moment our centre dropped the low pass and with just 5 minutes to go Sid Hynes picked up and touched down in the corner. To everyone’s relief Rismanmissed again and although it was 3 tries to 1 in Leeds favour the scores were tied 11-11. Still the excitement had not finished. Stung into attacking action, the Hull side finally came out of their shells and twice brought Howard Firth into the game down the wing. The first time he ‘Scored’ only to be brought back for a forward pass and the second time, the last play before the final whistle went, he was forced into touch just 5 yards short.
Hull had looked likely winners until that late try, and despite only drawing the game no one left the ground before the final whistle, after which the reception the home lads got would have led anyone entering the ground at that moment to believe Hull had actually won. In the end it was all down to goal kicking, Maloney got 3 from 5 whilst Risman only got 1 from 6. However, after such a great performance it would have been a total injustice had either side lost. Everyone had a fantastic time that afternoon, a fact that was emphasised by the ‘gallery’ of empty beer bottles left on the ledges at the back of the Threepenny Stand as everyone departed. I felt truly elated again, so much so that for once I even enjoyed the long bus ride home to Sutton.
Bishop Burton College and back in a band.
As I hinted at earlier, as an Apprentice gardener part of my training required that, as well as gong to night school in Hull, I attend the East Riding College of Agriculture and Horticuture at Bishop Burton, one afternoon a week. Night class on a Monday and Friday was alright, in fact I quite enjoyed it really something that I suppose looking back was mainly down to the lecturer on the course, Fred Fletcher, who was the head of the botanical gardens, and grounds maintenance side of the University of Hull. He was a real fanatic and loved everything about gardening. He was a small guy with a wicked sense of humour who always wore the shiniest shoes you have ever seen. His lectures spanned all aspects of the subject from detailed elements of Botany to how to construct a rock garden from the debris of an old air raid shelter.
He talked about everything mundane or otherwise with great enthusiasm and a relish that seemed to rub off on all his students. If College on a night was great, Bishop Burton College on ‘day release’ was all a bit bizarre really. Firstly,you had to get to the City Centre, and then there was a long bus ride out into the country. The students at these sessions were not only drawn from the apprentices of the Hull Parks Department but also from other areas of horticultural work and there were tractor drivers, botanists, hedge trimmers, glasshouse workers and gardeners. If the range of careers was wide, then so were the personalities.
There was the head lectures son John, Colin from Ellerker, Ted from Brough, Kevin and Mary from Skirlaugh etc. etc. etc. Dick Robinson who, a few years later, was destined to become a real personality in the world of local radio, and even made it onto Radio 4’s Gardeners Question Time, was the senior lecturer. What a guy he was, small diminutive with a weather beaten florid face, a neat tweed suit and (again) well-polished working boots. Dick, who had worked his way through the Hull Parks Department himself years earlier, was also an accomplished Church Organist, and he certainly did not stand for any messing around in class. In fact, on a couple of occasions he threw me and my pal ‘Fritz’, out for foolingaround and cracking jokes at the back of the classroom. Dick though knew his stuff and I think he eventually forgave me in the 80’s, when I was City Hall Manager, and I let him have a couple of goes on the City Hall Organ.
My relationship with Barry back on the Boulevard had waned somewhat because of the distance between where we now both lived, so the band stuff had all fallen by the wayside, and although I was still playing my guitar at home, that was about it really. However, my brush with ‘Ronno’ and love of attending live gigs meant that I still had ambitions in that direction and this led to me receiving a proposition,during a pruning session in the walled garden at the College, by Colin who hailed from the village of Ellerker. Col was, I found out later, an accomplished bass player who wanted to form his own band. He worked at Beans, the commercial lettuce, cucumber and tomato grower in Brough and was without doubt a real ‘country’ character. He had long frizzy hair, was around 5ft tall and always wore really high Cuban Heeled Boots. In addition he usually wore a tatty green parker coat and smoked a curly pipe stuffed with Old Holburn!
Colin invited me to his house way out in the country one Sunday, and I took my guitar on the bus and jammed a bit with him and his pals in an old Air Raid Shelter in their garden. I was doing OK, and they were I think all quite impressed until we were joined by a lad from Liverpool called Denny who arrived with a Burns guitar which he plugged in and then commenced to blow us all away. Colin lived with his Mum who was known to everyone in the village as ’Ma’ and Denny was a lodger with them. Denny who spoke with a rich ‘scouse’ accent was a real wide boy type of character, who I took to immediately. If you saw him on the street he was a pretty none descript sort of guy in his mid-twenties with freckles and wiry black hair, but put a guitar in his hands and he was a star.
The rise and fall of the Clockwork Chicken.
Denny was certainly a cultured musician, not as good as Mick Ronson of course, but light years ahead of me and so it was decided, there and then in the block house in Colin’s back garden in Ellerker, that we were to form a group with Colin on Bass, Denny on Lead Guitar, a lad called ‘Sarge’ on drums and me, as I seemed to be the only one who could sing, as rhythm guitar and vocals! The ‘Clockwork Chicken’ wasborn!
I returned home excited about the chance to play in a band again, and on the long bus journey back to Sutton I frantically tried to work out how I could persuade my Dad to lend me the £120 I needed to buy a PA system. We had plenty of amps and speakers but nothing to sing through. Mum, (good old Mum), thought it was a great idea, and helped persuade Dad, as usual, with a few of his favourite teas! Finally, he succumbed and about three weeks later I had bought a pair of Selmer Speakers, a Carlesboro amp and a Shure Unispheremicrophone from Johnny Pat at J.P. Cornells Music Store on Spring Bank in Hull. The band practised in the little Church Hall in South Cave, and although mainly a singer, I was still allowed to play a bit of rhyme guitar on some numbers. However, soon, under the guidance of Denny, we honed a couple of dozen songs and were ready for the road.
After a few pretty ineffective performances at the local youth club that mainly featured power failures, exploding amplifiersand the smell of burning, we managed to get ourselves an agent and the bookings started to roll in. The problem was that we only had two old Ford Anglia vans to ferry everything about in, so everywhere we went we went in convoy. That was fine at the Regal Ballroom in Beverley, but our so called ‘agent’ continued to get us booking at places like the Greyhound in Louth in Lincolnshire and the Lincoln City Supporters club. At £20 a night for four of us, we were never going to be millionaires at this rate. In addition to this rather worrying drawback I was also often found the next day by my foreman on the Parks Department, asleep in a shrubbery after those long hauls to darkest Lincolnshire.
We got some gigs in Hull though, and one memorable evening we played the Humber St Andrews club on Hessle Road. At the interval I was just about to get a pint to calm my nerves after a set, in front of what could only be described as a ‘hostile’ crowd, when a giant of a man came over and pinned me against the bar. He said, ‘Was you looking at our lass?’ to which I replied, ‘I certainly was not’, to which he retorted, ‘Why, what’s wrong with her?’ That was an interesting night!
We played all sorts of stuff from the Byrds, ‘So you want to be a Rock and Roll star’ to Crazy Elephants ‘Gimmi GimmiGood loving’ and from Cream numbers like ‘Sunshine of your love’ (everybody did that one), to Cupids Inspirations ‘My World’, the programme was as varied as the response we got from the crowds. There is no doubt that it was great fun, although I am afraid to say it was also very short lived. Denny was an obvious talent and was soon poached by a top clubland Country band and the rest of the Clockwork Chicken just fell apart. So, as Mick Ronson went from strength to strength, after about twenty odd gigs, me and my PA system returned to Sutton, and my career in gardening.
A Tragedy at home!!!
It was a good thing that I was not too preoccupied with becoming a travelling troubadour or a ‘Rock Legend’ either,because I was needed at home, as it was around that time then that disaster struck when Mum had a lump in her breast diagnosed as Breast Cancer. No doubt many people reading this will have been there either themselves or with loved ones but there is simply nothing that prepares you for the news and no one that can quite explain just what you are about to go through as a family. Why us? Why my Mum? She was taken into Hull Royal infirmary within two weeks of discovering the lump for a small ‘Lumpectomy‘ but as was so often the case in the sixties, once they got started with the operation it was a lot worse and she was in the Theatre for about 5 hours. She returned home three weeks later sadly minus both her breasts.
Mum and Dad had always smoked cigarettes, it was an accepted thing and most of their post war generation were smokers and it was that habit that was just twelve years later to lead, in part at least, to the demise of them both. After three weeks in hospital Mums initial recovery was slow, starting with two weeks at the local Health Authorities convalescence hospital at Withernsea. Dad and I made the long haul on the bus to the coast to see her just about every night and it was a lot easier once she was home again. She was in a terrible state for someone who had such a flamboyant and happy outlook, but she battled on and the support she got from her new friends the congregation at St James Church in Sutton, where both my parents now worshiped, was particularly helpful. It was hard to come to terms with the change in circumstances we were all experiencing but Dad and I tried our best to get things back to some sort of normality. They were tough times for Mum though, not just physically but psychologically and she was sadly never to be the same bubbly person she was before the operation.
Meanwhile the only things I had time to for after work and helping look after my mother was rugby and at the Boulevard the season was drawing to a close with three wins on the trot and a final weekend defeat at Wheldon Road Castleford by 10-14. For us fans it had been a mediocre season really under Chairman Reg Lee but at least he had started to sort out our finances and at the annual shareholders meeting the club were able to post a small profit of £1530 helped no doubt from the franchise for the sale of those salty hot dogs.
Terry Kirchin, simply a magician!
Saturday 9th August 1969: Hull 30 Castleford 4
Now as an aside for a moment I would like to take a little time to talk about one of those forgotten heroes that stick in your mind as a fan for your entire life and yet are never mentioned in the anals of our great club in the same breath as say Knocker Norton, Dave Topliss, Clive Sullivan or Peter Stirling. They are the players that have that special quality, be it skill, character or just plain toughness that all real fans love and that helps keep the players memory alive in their thoughts forever. I guess, for this fan, there are just one or two who fall into the category which Americans call their ‘Hall of Famers’ and personally second row forward Terry Kirchin would always be in the ranks of my all-time greatest players,alongside the likes of Kenny Foulkes and Chris Davidson (For their Loyalty), Wilf Rosenberg and Clive Sullivan for the sheer spectacle and excitement, and Knocker Norton and Peter Stirling for their absolute genius.
Terry is one player that I just cannot forget and any catalogue of my life, or the history of my supporting the club I love,would not be complete without him getting a special mention.On Thursday 7th August 1969, the club announced in the Hull Daily Mail that we had signed a gangly, tall second-row forward, on a three game loan deal from Barrow. No one had heard of the player, who we were told was called Terry Kirchin. His debut that Saturday against Castleford in the first round of the Yorkshire Cup saw us beat the West Riding club, 30-4 and Kirchin was simply amazing. Time after time he ran the ball in hard, ‘sucked’ in the opposition forwards to then reveal what was to become his trademark move. Wherever he was on the field he would keep on his feet in the tackle, a hand with the ball in it would appear from the ruck and it was out of the melee to whoever wanted it.
For the first few times this happened that day against Castleford, the ball just went to ground, but once Davidson and Hancock had ‘Got the Idea’ they took the ball every time and Kirchin’s trickery led to three tries that day. The man was a marvel as so good was his second-row play and so magical his repeated off loads. In fact, that day the more that Castleford tried to stop it the more he did it. At the end of the game the crowd gave him a standing ovation but our Board, cautious as ever, said that he would play out his loan spell before they made a decision on his future.
However, after he had reproduced exactly the same form and trickery at York the following week, and as other clubs were starting to take notice of his stylish play, action had to be taken and he was signed on for a career that lasted three seasons, during which Terry made 118 appearances for Hull FC. As a slight aside it would not be right to mention that game at York which we won 22-15 without including details of an incident from that game which showed just how things have changed from those days back in the 60’s.
If Terry Kirchin played well that day, it’s a game that Arthur Keegan will never forget because half an hour before kickoff he thought that he was going to miss the match altogether. He didn’t travel with the rest of the team from the Boulevard in the bus but instead got a lift from his home in Dewsbury straight to the Wiggington Road. With just half an hour to kick off he was stranded hopelessly in a traffic jam and still three miles from the ground. Arthur had been named on the team sheet and therefore had only one option. He abandoned his ‘lift’ and ran to the ground arriving just five minutes before the start of the game. In fact, if that was not enough in the dying minutes of a gripping Cup tie, with his pre match exploits unknown to the one thousand Hull supporters in the ground, Arthur pulled off a brilliant try saving tackle on York player Rippon when a match winning score seemed certain. Running three miles to a game and then playing….those were certainly the days!
We won the Cup, we won the Cup!!!!!!
Saturday 20th September 1969; Hull 12 Featherstone Rovers 9
As Mum struggled to recover from what was viewed as a major operation back then, Dad and I worried and I tried mybest to do everything I could to help at home, whilst continuing working and attending College, but after that there was precious little time left for much else. Well for much except of course rugby and the 1969/70 season was one that holds for me some pretty great memories. With no M62, away trips were of course limited to big cup games and therefore most of what I remember features first team and A team games at the Boulevard, but that last season of the decade was the one that the club at last managed to secure some silverware.
The Yorkshire Cup still featured as an early season competition back then and that year we had beaten York and Castleford at home in the early rounds and then beaten Leeds 20-17 in the semi-final under the lights at Headingley, which meant for the second time in three years we had got through to the Yorkshire Cup final.
So it was that on a drizzly September morning I made my way from home in Sutton to Paragon Station to catch the 9-00 o’clock train to Leeds for our appearance in that Final where we were to play Featherstone Rovers. Two years previously we had come up short in the same fixture against Rovers but this time with new signing Terry Kirchin on board we had high hopes of getting our first final win in the competition since 1924. It’s hard to believe that with all our success in the second half of the 1950’s this trophy that was probably (because of the competition format) the ‘easiest’ to win, had alluded us and although we had been in the final eight times in recent years we had still fallen short on each occasion and lost out when it mattered most.
The train was packed with Hull FC fans starved of success and once we got off at Leeds City we all went for a few beers in the Scarborough Hotel which was just around the corner from the station where the juke box blasted out the Beatles ‘Come Together’ and ‘Sunny Afternoon’ by the Kinks. At about 1-00pm, a little the worse for wear I got some fish and chips and then boarded the bus for Headingley where we alighted right outside the Cricket Ground turnstiles in Kirkstall Lane. Once inside we took up our position in the South Stand amongst another 6000 high spirited Hull fans. Rugby league was going through a torrid time back then and that was reflected in a gate of 11,089 which was the smallest to ever watch Hull FC in a Cup final. I suppose as we were three places above Featherstone in the League table at the time, we just started the game as favourites.
The day before the match coach Johnny Whiteley had announced that club captain Arthur Keegan would miss out through injury. There were few times in his thirteen-year reign as club full back that Arthur missed a game and so it was to be ironic that ‘Mr Reliable’ was missing when we won the only piece of silverware we got during his entire career at the club. His place was to be taken by youngster Malcolm Owbridgewho was playing in only his seventh first team game. The other big pre match worry was the fitness of Centre Dick Gemmell who had taken no part in the cup run having been out for the past eight games. He had suffered with a bad ankle injury, but with Keegan out it was decided that Hull would risk him with his ankle strapped up.
He took over the captaincy for the day and said afterwards that the large wad of white strapping was actually on his good ankle to fool ‘would be’ tacklers in the Featherstone ranks. He had two pain killing injections in the bad ankle before the game which by the end appeared to be wearing off a bit. Just how brave Dick was that day can I think be gauged by the fact that after the game, so badly had he aggravated his injury, he couldn’t walk to the bus and because of this injury he was then out of the game for 12 weeks. Still cometh the hour cometh the man and Dick led us brilliantly that day.
The game was played under the four tackles and a scrum rule that was introduced three years earlier and the number of scrums this generated (39 in all) saw us given a big advantage throughout the game by hooker Alan McGlone who won 29 of them. Sadly, at times poor handling and ‘option taking’ meant that we wasted that advantage somewhat.
We kicked off playing towards the current score board end, although back then it was on the opposite terracing which these days accommodates the new Carnegie Stand. In our first set of four plays ‘Mr Magic’, Terry Kirchin managed to release a ball from a five man tackle to the supporting John Maloney. That play eventually saw a 50-yard flowing move thwarted on the line by the ‘Colliers’ full back Cyril Kellett. Next it was the turn of Alf Macklin, who took a great inside ball from Dick Gemmell to again be held just short. Featherstone then threatened through Newlove and Nash but Hull’s defence with particularly Harrison and Forster repeatedly stamping on any power thrusts by the Featherstone stars Thompson and Mick Morgan, stood firm. One player that was literally sparkling though was our loose forward Joe Brown, he was by far the most creative player on the field having the Featherstone defence mesmerised at times. The rest of the half was really a stop start affair with Hull taking the lead through a Maloney penalty and Kellett kicking two more for the opposition leaving us trailing 4-2 at half time.
The second half started with a big punch up when Smaileswent for Gemmell and three or four FC players piled in. From the resultant tap penalty Hartley the ‘Colliers’ scrum half ‘scored’ only to be brought back for a forward pass. Then we took the lead. A flowing move started with some great slightof hand by Kirchin saw Brown carry the ball down field before releasing it to Dick Gemmell. Now I don’t know if you ever saw Dick play, but if you did you would remember the way that he took the ball into the tackle and being such a tall guy, he was able to somehow pass over the top of the opposition player to release the ball with a bullet like wide pass. That is just what happened that day and Sullivan gleefully took the ball and cantered in for a try which went unconverted.
At 7-4 up we had a golden opportunity to put the game to bed but we then witnessed the one piece of action that anyone who was there back in 1969 will remember to this day. Alan McGlone broke free from a tackle and fed Gemmell who was by this time limping badly. Three would be tacklers saw his distress and decided to pounce but once again out came that wonderful, powerful pass over the opponent, and Sully was away and heading for his second touchdown. We all cheered with great relief as he crossed the whitewash but stood open mouthed as he just kept going. He then sort of turned to go to a position closer to the posts but before he could get the ball to ground he slipped and shot over the dead ball line. We just could not believe what we had seen, and neither could Clive who said after the game, ‘My feet just shot from under me, I felt like crying’. So did the crowd who were momentarily reduced to a stunned silence.
Still we only had to wait a few more minutes before Joe Brown set up the winning score. Once again, vindicating Whiteley’s decision to risk his dodgy ankle, it was Gemmell making the initial break before he passed onto Joe Brown who ran straight at the heart of the Featherstone forwards dummied once and then twice before slipping a wonderful inside pass to Prop Jim Macklin, who ran in to score unchallenged. This time Maloney kicked the goal and despite a Steve Nash try in the dying minutes causing a few hearts to flutter, the whistle went and we were home and dry, we had at last won the Yorkshire Cup.
We all ran onto the field to congratulate the lads and then we congregated around the central section of the best stand to watch the trophy presentation. Joe Brown got the ‘Man of the Match’ award that day but the whole team, resplendent in their white shirts with the black V, looked so pleased with the victory. The fans went mad singing and chanting as it took Dick Gemmell all his time to crawl up the steps to lift the trophy. But for me personally it was a defining moment because we had won a Cup, the first since I saw the light and became hooked on Hull FC and it was a brilliant feeling. A few more beers with the players and a round or two of ‘Old Faithful’ in the bar under the Stand, made for a pleasant journey home although it was a good job that the trains from Leeds terminated in Hull back then, because by the time we reached Paragon Station the guard had to wake me up as I was fast asleep clutching my programme and no doubt dreaming of more silverware.
If you’re a ‘proper’ fan there is little doubt you have suffered a lot for your team and you’ll also ‘benchmark’ your life with their exploits. Some fanatics seek assistance by keeping programmes, scrap books or press cuttings, others continuously talk about the past, as if in fear that they forget it. We all have statistics and club and player records in our heads too. These days in the 21st century I can’t remember what I did last Saturday, but I can tell you exactly where I was stood on the pitch at Headingley when Dick Gemmell raised that trophy. That in the end is what it’s all about for me!
We’re so lucky as supporters to have the greatest battle cry in the whole of the Rugby League World!
It was, funnily enough, during that game that I remember looking across to the Featherstone fans who had regaled us with their chants of ‘Featherstone Featherstone’ throughout the game and seen the look of envy in their faces as we belted out ‘Old Faithful’ back at them. It’s a look I have seen literally dozens of times, as I travelled the country watching the team I love because it is without doubt the greatest battle cry there is in the game and most other supporters know in their heart of hearts that it is simply unique as anthems go.
Why do I say that? Well Leeds have more recently adopted ‘Marching on Together’ ‘Rovers have their ‘Red Red Robin’ and Saints ‘When the Saints go marching in’ and I guess that’s about it really as far as bespoke anthems go anyway. But the ‘Loiners’ song was written specifically for Leeds United Football Club, whilst the Hull Kingston Rovers and the Saints ‘anthems’ see them adopting a song because it has their clubs nickname in the title. ‘Old Faithful’ though is different, it is a onetime popular song that has no mention of Hull, our ground or even our nickname in it and so as an adopted song that has lasted for 80 odd years it is very special. In fact, it’s just an otherwise little known cowboy song, sung in the mid-thirties by Gene Autrey to his horse.
It is said that it was first sung by a single voice and then taken up by the crowd, in a game against Wigan in1936 and was directed to our most faithful of servants and absolute icon of the game Joe Oliver. Whether this is true we will probably never know, but there will no doubt be Hull fans everywhere who claim a different origin for this most famous of battle cries. All I know is that it is heard at grounds across the game as well as at funeral services, wedding receptions and even in one case around the font of a Christening I went to! We are so lucky to have the unique anthem that is ‘Old faithful’ and that along with the most original strip in the game really do, for me, set us apart from all the rest of the clubs in the game. But then again, I am a bit biased! Still it is debatable what effect ‘Old Faithful’ has on the team that Hull are playing at the time that it is sung as well, because a lot of folks I know feel that it also inspires the opposition to greater things, but that’s something that we will probably never know.
It was that season that the diminutive figure of Charlie Watson took over as club Chairman. He was a mild mannered,dapper, well-dressed man, who was always seen smoking his pipe and it was not long before he had granted Arthur Keegan a well-deserved Testimonial Year, in recognition of our full backs service to the club. We all bought raffle tickets and entered into the spirit of the benefit campaign because Arthur was now just part and parcel of the ‘furniture’ at the Boulevard, and despite being of West Yorkshire heritage certainly still one of our own.
That’s Hubert over there; he’s the one peeing on the Chrysanthemums.
As I navigated the world of work my next port of call as a garden apprentice, saw me sent for three months to work in the old Conservatory in Pearson Park. The foreman down there Frank Bates took me that first Monday morning to meet the guy in charge of the old Victorian edifice that was the giant greenhouse in the middle of the Park. There I was introduced to Hubert who was probably the cleverest gardener I ever met. He was a short fat guy with an infectious smile and an opinion on everything. He wore a traditional gardener’s apron, trousers tied up with string and rode everywhere on a rickety old delivery bike with a metal basket carrier on the front.
I was to serve under his guidance, and learnt everything there was to know about growing hot house flowers and plants in deepest West Hull. The heating system was powered by two massive cast iron boilers in the cellar and it was my job every evening before I went home to stoke the boiler so it stayed warm through the night. Next morning even before the kettle was on I had to rake all the clinker out of the foot of the furnace and barrow it out up a steep ramp before re-stoking the boiler for the day ahead. That was back breaking work and I could also be seen, once every two weeks, spending all day shovelling the latest supply of coke from the path where Rafferty and Watsons the Coal Merchant tipped it, into the massive coal bunkers next to the boiler house.
Hubert it was said could, ‘Root a broom handle’ and he certainly used some unique methods to get the best results. He collected rain water for his African Violets which he grew on corrugated iron shelves over the heating pipes, ground bones that he had delivered from the local butcher for fertilizer and used human urine as a secret additive in his Chrysanthemum watering, ‘to make up for the lack of trace elements’. It was not unusual at all for a member of the public to open the big white front door of the Conservatory to find Hubert relieving himself into a watering can!
He had a wicked sense of humour too and I remember one day a rather suave gentleman entering the Conservatory and enquiring as to the availability of a ‘gardener’ to give him some advice. I called Hubert and the businessman then related how he was worried that his next-door neighbour was growing, “that ‘Marijuana’ stuff they are always talking about on the TV”. He said that he had tackled him about it but his neighbour had assured him the plants were in fact sprouts but he was he said, ‘Terribly worried’. Hubert thought for a while, stroked his chin and then said, “Well, If I were you I would climb into his garden whilst he is out, take some of the leaves home, boil them, let them cool then eat them and if in half an hour your still worried, then I think I can assure you that they’re definitely Sprouts”.
Hubert was, like so many others that I met on the Parks Department, simply a great guy and a real character and it was a sad day when after just three months my stay at Pearson Park came to an end. But I was a much wiser gardener for the experience.
Leeds Again…I bet they’re getting fed up with us lot beating them!!
Sunday 23rd November 1969: Hull 9 Leeds 8
Next up in the League was the mighty Leeds. Back then for every other Rugby League team ‘big spending’ Leeds was the outfit that everyone wanted to beat. Between 1968 and 1973 they reached the play off final four times and won it twice. They had some great players included in their ranks including that ‘sparkling’ halfback pairing of Seabourne and Shoebottom, who were still going strong and the ‘mercurial’Bev Risman who seemed to be always hitting the headlines in the ‘Rugby Leaguer’ newspaper. This game was probably the best that season if you exclude that wonderful Yorkshire Cup final win and was played on 23th November 1969 at the Boulevard on a cold, cold night in front of 7,500 spectators. The visiting “Loiners” provided us with a stern challenge having lost just once in the League in 14 games. Hull on the other hand, was in turmoil with the players in dispute with the Board over pay and threatening to go on strike.
On top of that, two of our best players, Dick Gemmell and the great Arthur Keegan, (the latter still in his benefit year), were both missing through injury. Gemmell was still injured after his heroics at Headingley in the final, whilst Keegan had been back playing since that game but had received a back injury in training in the week leading up to the game. We had actually already beaten Leeds on the way to that Yorkshire Cup Final triumph so the fans all hoped against hope for another upset. I watched the game from the Threepennies that night and although it was only November there was frost in the air and I particularly remember that the old ground looked really run down, something that was hardly helped by the fact that although they were musically a thing of the past by then, you could still hear The Bachelors crooning “Diane”,“Ramona” and “I Believe” as their nasal tones crackled out of the Rediffusion ‘tannoy’ speakers around the ground, like some scratched and worn out 78rpm record. If, that was, the speaker near you was actually working at the time!
Stood there in the old stand, amongst friends and amidst the smell of beer and cigarette smoke, we were all still discussing the possibility of a players strike when that greatest of goal kickers John Maloney, kicked us into a seven minute lead and slowly but surely the confident Leeds outfit started to buckle under the threat of a well marshalled Hull pack. Players like the soon to depart Jim Macklin, and Mick Harrison, Alan McGlone, Joe Brown and Chris Forster ripped into the Leeds pack whilst Terry Kirchin again mesmerised the opposition’s tacklers by always being able to sneak the ball away before the tackle was completed. It was almost a challenge every week for the opposition to stop it, and in one incident he was surrounded by no fewer than 6 Leeds players, but still managed to stay stood up, before handing the ball out to Ken Huxley to start another attack.
Then right in front of us Clive Sullivan, with the embrocationthat he lathered his body in before games shining in the floodlights, sped in at the corner following a superbly smuggled pass out of the tackle by Kenny Foulkes. Back came Leeds to ‘pepper’ stand in full back Owbridge with a series of high kicks, the third of which resulted in a dropped ball and Leeds regaining possession. The ensuing play the ball caught our defence flat footed and the speed of the Leeds backs saw Bev Risman sending Mick Shoebottom flying away for a converted try. So, we went in at half time just two points behind on the scoreboard but full of heart for the rest of the game.
The second half was just as intense as the first, and Hull went back in front with two more Maloney penalties one for a foul on Kirchin whose magical ball skills in the tackle were by this time starting to rile the Leeds players. As the clock ticked on, Leeds suddenly seemed to realise that they were about to lose only their second game in the League that yearand ‘cranked everything up a notch’, but try as they may they could not break our defence to score. In the end they had to be satisfied with a solitary try far out on the right by Atkinson after a last-ditch tackling effort by Alf Macklin just failed to nail him. Risman could not convert and as the final whistle went the sound of ‘Old Faithful’ ringing through the rafters of the old Stand heralded a famous 9-8 victory for the FC.
It was a fabulous night and a great “backs to the wall” performance that saw our Directors, coaching staff and players out on the pitch at the end. As we jumped the fences and chaired the players from the field we all thought that the Cup game followed by this great win had seen us turn the corner. As always seemed the case back then, it was another false dawn, and we fell away badly at the end of the season. However, one thing that was good was team spirit and the players could often be seen out and about together around the town. There were plenty of jokes around as well, with Alf Macklin and Terry Devonshire the club jesters who were always playing tricks on the rest of the team. One great story saw Terry Devonshire and Clive Sullivan peering in at one of the other players newly born baby in a carry cot. It was then in what were less politically correct times that Terry is reported to have said to Clive , ‘Look at her, poor little mite, she thinks we’re the Black and White Minstrel Show’ and the pair collapsed in a heap laughing helplessly. How times have changed eh?
Now everyone’s talking about Terry Kirchin.
Saturday 8th March 1970: Hull 17 Huddersfield 3
By we got to New Year and the new decade everyone it seemed was talking about my new favorite player Terry Kirchin and his ball releasing and handling abilities. Since he arrived at the club his reputation was growing and he had become quite the local hero. The thing was back then he was a completely new phenomenon, because in those days forwards just didn’t release the ball. Before I leave that season and indeed the decade of the 1960’s I must just report on what was probably the best game I saw Kirchin have in the famous black and white hoops. It was a match that took place at the Boulevard later that season in March when the opposition was Huddersfield, a team who were just one place behind us in 9thposition in the league.
Throughout the game we were much the better side but for all our efforts it took us a long time to get the better of the ‘Fartowners’ that day. Huddersfield who had taken an early lead with an opportunist try by their loose Forward, Davis in the 26th minute took everything that we threw at them and were assisted, I remember, by a glue pot of a pitch which was in places ankle deep in mud and that made turning quickly nearly impossible. Just before halftime however in the south corner of the ground, Kirchin came to the rescue when he plunged through a ruck of players at the play-the-ball, to scoreand Maloney tagged on the points for us to go in 5-3 in the lead.
The second half however was the memorable part of the game for me and it was Hull all the way, as we belied the conditions and threw the ball around to play some great rugby. Hancock fed Eric Broom who put out a deft little reverse into the path of Kirchin. This time Terry just charged at the Huddersfield forwards as one after another they attached themselves to him. As players tried to get his legs he just stepped out of the tackles and ploughed on. He shook off the tacklers and started striding into a gap about 20 yards out and could have probably scored himself, but instead the rangy forward gave the ball to John Maloney who went on an arching run around the defense to touch down in the corner. Maloney himself converted from a difficult angle and we were on our way.
About ten minutes later, Loxon the Huddersfield scrum-half tried a short kick out of his own twenty five but it went straight to Dick Gemmell who drew the defense before giving an inside pass to Brian Hancock to score another. Our forwards were now on top and Kirchin was in the thick of everything we did. His driving runs had Huddersfield players showing a distinct aversion to getting involved in the tackle and he was matched for most of the time by Mick Harrison who ground into their pack time and again. There were, we found out later, two of the Rugby League’s International selectors present and no doubt Harrisons form that day would have caught their eye. The other forwards got involved too with both Roy Firth and Shaun O’Brien following Mick’s lead.
Huddersfield ‘Hard Man’ Ian Van Bellan then decided that he had experienced enough of the constant hard tackling that he was being subjected to by the Hull pack and hit out at Mick Harrison felling probably the toughest player I have ever seen in a Hull shirt with a perfectly executed right hook to the face. The referee had an idea as to what had happened but was obviously not sure so as Mick was helped to the side lines by our coaching staff, he just had a ‘Stern word’ with the Huddersfield captain for the night, Senior.
As we looked on from the terraces and with blood pouring down our prop forwards face the doctor administered about 5 stitches above Mick’s eye whilst he just stood there hands on hips staring at the action going on out on the field. Immediately after the physician had tugged at the stitches to tighten them and washed his face with a sponge, Mick went back onto the field. Still bloodied all over his face, he stood in the line and as the referee followed the play as it swept to the left, he walked out of his position and hit Van Bellan so hard with an upper cut that the St John ambulance stretcher bearers were onto the field before the referee had chance to blow the whistle. Apparently after the game the referee commented that he knew Harrison had hit Van Bellen but he, “Hadn’t actually seen it!”
With around five minutes to go to the final whistle, Kirchingot the ball on his own 25 and ran straight at giant Huddersfield prop Stephenson, who crumpled to the ground as three more would be tacklers moved in, but Terry just took the tackles standing up and while the opposition tried to rough him up he wrestled his ball handling arm free and handed the ball out to a grateful Ibbotson in support, he ran on another twenty yards before being stopped in a great last ditch tackle by Huddersfield second rower Bob Taylor. But the ball release was just amazing and that last play of the game has stayed with me all my life and despite watching hundreds of games and players involving our great club that vision of Terry Kirchin is one of the easiest RL memories to recall for me.
Just to put the icing on the cake Terry eventually left us for Rovers after three seasons for a handsome transfer fee but he decided that after a couple of games he did not like it over there in the East and he quickly disappeared back to a job in the petroleum industry and relative obscurity! Anyone who has watched rugby in Hull for over 40 years will remember Terry Kirchin and for those who don‘t, believe me, you missed a treat!! The great times of Terry, Arthur Keegan, Clive Sullivan and Dick Gemmell gave a glimmer of hope for all the fans of Hull FC at the end of the sixties but it was a glimmer that the first part of the next decade extinguished completely.
So the seventies started with me at twenty and continuing to ply my trade as an apprentice gardener, Hull were doing reasonably well when you consider our difficult financial situation, whilst Mum continued to struggle to recover from what was back then a long process of convalescence. The future was beckoning, as was probably the toughest decade I have had to endure as a son and it was going to be pretty shocking for my rugby team at times too.
To be continued ……
So, there we are we’ve all survived another week although we are no further on with where the game is going and indeed when normality will return for all of us. One things for sure, I think that’s a long way off, don’t you?
Thanks for all your correspondence over the last week as it came in from ships out in the North Sea, fans in Toronto, an exiled Boulevardian in Australia and loads and loads of you sitting it out here in Hull. It’s always great to hear from you and although the serialisation of the books isn’t ideal, I hope you at least found something to keep you amused for a while.
Stay safe, Keep believing and all being well I’ll be back next week.